Part 7 – Colossians 2:16-23
Paul’s letter takes a sharp turn here, as he now directly addresses one of the specific controversies that has plagued the church in Colossae. There was a dangerous form of legalism being taught by some people who were part of the church. There are five specific aspects of this false teaching that Paul rejects:
- The questions of food and drink were related to an errant belief that abstaining from certain kinds of foods and drinks (probably wine) made a person more “holy” or “spiritual.”
- The debate about festivals or new moon or a Sabbath revolved around the false teaching that participation in religious holy days or feasts would lead to a higher spiritual awareness or status.
- Asceticism is the belief that rigorous self-discipline makes one more holy.
- When Paul references the worship of angels and goes into detail about visions, he is addressing the false worship of angels and the belief that those who focused on angel worship would receive divine visions with specific details about their lives.
- Being inflated by empty notions of their unspiritual mind means just what it says, that there are those who feel spiritually superior because of themselves, rather than finding their identity in Christ.
- Did you grow up believing that worldly disciplines (attending church, not drinking alcohol, avoiding certain behaviors) had saving power? When did you come to realize that salvation comes through Christ alone?
- Are you spiritually nourished? Are you growing with a growth that is from God?
- What are the “elements of the world” (regulations, worldly precepts, self-made religion, etc.) you are tempted to submit to? What does Christ offer that no worldly teaching can offer?
As Paul addresses these issues directly, it is easy to imagine rising tension within the Colossian church. Paul again moves quickly to squash these divisions by pointing the saints back to Christ Himself as the center of the Christian faith. He implores them to “hold on to the Head,” which is Jesus, because it is through Jesus (not asceticism, angel worship, etc.) that the whole body of Christ is “nourished.” Paul wants them to “grow with a growth that is from God,” rather than hold the belief that spiritual strength is gained through individual effort.
Paul then questions why a believer in Jesus would choose to submit themselves to worldly regulations rather than follow the cross of Christ. He argues that “human commands and doctrines,” while they may indeed have “a reputation of wisdom,” actually hold “no value” because they are temporary and will soon perish. It is better to put your trust in Christ, because He alone is the source of wisdom and truth, and He alone can save for eternity.
The best way to nourish yourself spiritually is through the wisdom of God’s Word. Select a Bible verse you find encouraging or challenging. Write the verse on a note card, and carry it with you or post it somewhere you can see throughout the day. Reflect on your verse each day, with a goal of having it memorized by the end of the week.